What is a Doula?
And What a Doula is Not...
To immediately clear up some confusion, a Doula is not a medical professional. We do not do cervical checks, we do not take blood pressure, we do not prescribe medicines, we do not give medical advice, we do not take the place of a care provider. So what does a Doula do?
Doula comes from the Greek word Doulē meaning “woman who serves”, and has now been redefined as “a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a birthing person before, during, and shortly after childbirth to help them achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible”. There are Birth Doulas who provide support during labor and birth, which may be massage, providing water, encouragement, helping with different comfort measures, and things as simple as fetching the birthing person and their family waters or snacks.
There are Postpartum Doulas who provide educational and practical support in the home within the first weeks or months after childbirth. This may look like simply having a listening ear for the birthing parent and other members of the family, encouraging an overwhelmed birther, doing some light housekeeping tasks, providing companionship, and more. Antepartum Doulas are very similar to Postpartum Doulas, except they provide support during pregnancy, usually with high-risk pregnancies or those who have been put on bedrest, and even for first time parents who are unsure about this journey. Another type of Doula is a Bereavement Doula, or Death Doula, who provides support when one suffers from a miscarriage, loss of pregnancy, stillbirth, or even for an abortion.
How do we know this support is important? Numerous studies have been done on this and what has been found is that, when someone has continuous support, there is a:
25% decreased risk for cesarean (39% decrease if that support comes from a Doula
8% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth (15% increase if that support comes from a Doula)
10% decrease in the use of pain relief
Shorter labors by, on average, 41 minutes.
38% decrease in low Apgar scores
31% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied in birthing experience